Next up in our 2023 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers series is the Los Angeles Kings.
They made a big splash trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois. That trade sent a couple of potential Kings sleepers to the Jets. This means, there are new sleepers to consider in their stead. Five of the top-six spots are spoken for. Quinten Byfield’s appearance in the top six seems a bit tenuous. Byfield is not a lock to start or stick in the top six. This opens up sleeper options, which we’ll dive into now.
2023-24 Fantasy Hockey Sleepers from the LA Kings
I had him as a late-round sleeper in my limited keeper draft last year. It’s a deep pool, with eight bench spots. I had him slated for 55 points, 200 shots, and a handful of power-play points. An injury that cost him 23 games made sure that didn’t happen. He looked like a different player when he returned from injury. He just didn’t look right.
So, what happens to a player pegged as a sleeper who suffers an injury and then underperforms projected expectations? They slide into deeper sleeper territory. In most 10-to-12-team leagues he’s not draftable. In deeper pools, he could very well slide to the last couple of rounds. The other thing that can happen to a player like Moore, is he can lose his spot in the line-up. The Kings have a lot of young players hungry for ice time and opportunity.
This is what makes Trevor Moore the ultimate sleeper. People have written him off. He’s labeled a character, depth player. It may be true. It is why fans love Moore, ever the underdog. Nothing will be handed Moore. He will have to scratch and claw for ice time, for power-play time. But that’s exactly how he likes it. There is an equal chance he puts up 30 points as he does 55.
They say big players take more time. At 6’4″, Byfield fits the bill. It’s taken Byfield time to become an everyday NHL player. He has a legitimate opportunity to nail down a spot next to Anze Kopitar. Byfield is a legitimate sleeper threat.
Sitting at 99 career NHL games, his breakout threshold is at least another year away. Being defined as a big player (over 6’3″, 215lbs), his threshold could be as far out as 400 games. All that said, he was a second-overall pick in the 2020 draft. The talent is there to lay waste to thresholds and have things click earlier than it does for most.
Realistically, 50 points is a legitimate expectation. Things could click for Byfield. The game could start to slow down. If he also clicks with Kopitar we could see 65-70 points. The acquisition of Dubois could benefit Byfield the most. It’s a similar size and style of player. Seeing Dubois use his body to create space could help Byfield in the short term
Draft for 50. Hope for 65.
He took a nice step forward in his second season. At first glance, it doesn’t appear that way. With 28 points he only outpaced 2021-2022 by one point. Keep in mind though, he did this in 24 fewer games. His points-per-game (PPG) increased from .34 to .5. If we want to dive deeper, Kaliyev improved to .5 PPG with 0:58 less ice time per game. There are not many players that can produce .5 PPG in 11:41 of ice time. Over two minutes of which came on the power-play.
What does all this tell us? Quite simply, Kaliyev has a dynamic offensive skillset. The Kings are trying to find offensive situations to put him in because of that skill set. A bump in ice time, close in on the 15:00 mark and Kaliyev should see his first 50-point season in the NHL.
The trade of Sean Durzi to the Arizona Coyotes accomplished two things for the Kings. First, it allowed them to sign Vladimir Gavrikov. Yeah, I know trading Cal Peterson opened up the majority of the cap space. But Durzi opened the rest. Secondly, it opened up a spot for Brandt Clarke.
Clarke is a polarizing prospect. There’s no question his offensive skill set is a high-end package. The problem, he too often forgets he is a defenseman and leaves his partner high and dry. It’s a glaring hole in his game. His offensive game is so tantalizing that coaches are willing to overlook a lot of those gaffes.
What can you really say about 61 points in 31 games in the OHL? That is as dominant as it gets by a defenseman. There is a real possibility he starts off with the Ontario Reign. It is a big jump from junior to the NHL. It’s an even larger jump for a defenseman.
If he is cut in camp. Keep a close eye on his progress in the AHL. If he starts off hot and produces well he should be a quick call-up. I expect him to get 15-20 games in the AHL. If he produces a point-per-game I won’t be surprised. He should see a fair amount of NHL games. I mean, after Drew Doughty, there isn’t a lot of offense on the blue line.
My Ultra-Sleeper Pick
There is no shortage of sleeper options. I’ll leave you with an ultra-sleeper. I don’t believe Cam Talbot and Phoenix Copley can play well enough as a tandem to get the Kings into the playoffs. If one falters or gets injured they’re going to need a replacement. Dave Rittich is not the answer.
Erik Portilla had three very solid years in the NCAA with Michigan. This is a close your eyes and swing for the fence suggestion. The Kings will need someone to step in this year at some point. It can’t or shouldn’t be Rittich. Portilla might be the ticket.
Again, given as a blazing wild-card, ultra-deep sleeper with a grain of salt.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed it and found this useful as you prep for your draft.
Follow me on Twitter @doylelb4; where you’ll find as many hiking musings as you will fantasy hockey.
Make sure to check out all of the sleepers and breakouts of the 2023 fantasy hockey season!